Sunday August 31, 2014

Drivers on Coquihalla get reprieve from snow

'It’s going to be better than it’s been'

The Coquihalla Highway at Larson Hill Friday afternoon.

A brief reprieve from a series of snowstorms has weather and highway officials pegging Saturday as the best day to drive the Coquihalla between Kamloops and the Lower Mainland.

“It’s going to be better than it’s been,” Bob Gilowski, vice-president of VSA Highway Maintenance, said Friday.

Those who do opt to drive the highway will experience compact snow and slippery sections given the 100 centimetres of snow that’s fallen on the Coquihalla during the previous six days.

His crews have worked around the clock to keep the road open, only advising motorists to stay away when a heavy snowfall warning was issued on Tuesday.

Environment Canada meteorologist Jim Steele said the last five to eight cm was forecast to fall Friday afternoon. No new snow is expected until late Sunday, creating a narrow window for snow-weary drivers to travel.

He said the amount of moisture that’s moved through the area has resulted in a considerable accumulation.

“Eighteen to 20 centimetres in the last 24 hours and 60 in the 36 hours before that? That’s a lot,” said Steele.

Steele didn’t want to guess how much snow could fall on Sunday, saying the day is too far away.

So far, the snow hasn’t prompted the Ministry of Transportation to consider taking action to avoid an avalanche. Gilowski said VSA would be notified if the situation got to that point.

But there’s a lot of snow in the mountains — enough that the Canadian Avalanche Centre considers the risk in the alpine to be considerable.

The risk drops to moderate in the tree line and low below the tree line, said avalanche forecaster Mark Bender.

“There is a little bit of concern for sure in the upper elevations,” he said.

Bender asks backcountry skiers and snowmobilers to check the latest reports on before venturing out and to take the necessary precautions.

For the latest highway information visit

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